Triple-A West is the only league in action in all of minor league baseball on Mondays this year. Let’s dive into another Chihuahuas victory and recap what the other clubs did in the week gone by.
Chihuahuas 9, Albuquerque Isotopes 3
Key Statistics: RF Ben Ruta, 1-for-4, HR (2), R, RBI; 3B-1B Nick Tanielu, 2-for-4, 2 R, RBI; 2B Matthew Batten, 1-for-4, R, HR (1), RBI; LF Gosuke Katoh, 2-for-4, R; CF Taylor Kohlwey, 2-for-3, R, 2B, 4 RBI; LHP Daniel Camarena (W, 1-0) 5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, BB, K; RHP Jordan Guerrero, 2 IP, H, 2 K.
Prospect Watch: El Paso won their sixth straight game to improve to 8-3. They are tied for first with Round Rock. … Ben Ruta had the big blow; a three-run homer in the fourth inning. The 26-year-old is getting his first taste of Triple-A baseball and so far the former Yankee farmhand has produced, hitting .242/.359/.515 with a pair of homers. … Taylor Kohlwey, who continues to log time in center, had a double, a single, and tied a career-high with four runs batted in. The 26-year-old last drove in four while playing with the short-season Dust Devils in 2016. The versatile Kohlwey started the year as San Antonio’s primary first baseman but the COVID-19 situation in San Diego necessitated him moving up a level. He played in 11 games with El Paso back in 2019. Between three levels that year, Kohlwey slashed an impressive .302/.396/.424. … Now let’s move on to players with local ties. Gosuke Katoh started in left field and had a pair of hits. The 26-year-old signed with the Padres as a free agent in November and impressed in spring training. Born in Poway and a Rancho Bernardo High grad, he was originally drafted by the Yankees in the second round back in 2013. He signed with the Marlins prior to the 2020 season but never played an official game due to the cancellation of the 2020 minor league season. … Daniel Camarena earned his first organizational win Monday, as he fired five solid innings. The former Cathedral Catholic star has a nice 2.08 ERA through his first three starts. Three is a key number for Camarena: In 13 innings, he’s allowed three earned runs (all on solo HR’s) with three walks and just three strikeouts. His stuff isn’t blowing anyone away but he is only allowing opposing batters to hit .208 in what is still very much a hitter’s league.
San Antonio Missions Week-in-review (Lost series vs. the Midland RockHounds, 4-2).
Top Prospects: Infielder CJ Abrams had a nice series in Midland, hitting .292/.346/.458 in the six games with a homer, two RBI, and a stolen base. Abrams hit the homer on Sunday, an impressive shot to right field. The sweet-swinging top prospect only struck out four times in the set, a big improvement from the first series. Through 12 games, Abrams’s wRC+ of 149 leads the Missions and ranks 15th in the Double-A Central League. … Outfielder Esteury Ruiz had a nice series, going 8-for-23, with three doubles, a triple, and three RBI. Perhaps the most encouraging development is the increased contact Ruiz displayed. He struck out just three times in 23 plate appearances while starting each game. Ruiz has some power and if the contact improvement sticks long-term, it should allow him to flash it more in game situations. In 12 games this year, Ruiz is hitting an impressive .289/.386/.421. …RHP Reiss Knehr bounced back from a rough start and pitched well on Saturday night, throwing five shutout innings to earn his second victory of the young season. He allowed four hits, walking two and striking out six. Knehr has been a fast riser on national prospect lists and certainly was in the discussion for a place in our top-25 list we released in the pre-season. The former Fordham Ram has a 4.50 ERA through three starts.
Keep an Eye on: RHP Adrian Martinez. The 24-year-old Mexicali native started on Sunday and allowed a run in four innings of work, walking two and striking out six. The righty worked as a swingman with Low-A Fort Wayne in 2019 before finishing the year in the High-A Lake Elsinore rotation. He has started this year in the San Antonio rotation and has gone four innings in each of his previous two outings. He has an impressive 6:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in a limited sample so far this season.
Fort Wayne TinCaps Week-in-Review (lost five of six to the Lake County Captains).
Top Prospects: After going hitless in the opening series, outfielder Tirso Ornelas had three hits in the six-game series on the road. The bad news is that Ornelas hit just .143/.217/.238 last week, although he was able to put the ball in play. The Tijuana native has hit a lot of balls in the air in the first couple of weeks and has an infield fly ball percentage of 42% contributing to a .120 BABIP. … RHP Anderson Espinoza did not pitch last week. There have been no reports of injury, so it’s unclear when he might take the mound again. Espinoza did speak to John Conniff early last week and that interview is available for subscribers.
Interviews: John will have more on-site interviews coming in the not-too-distant future after visiting Fort Wayne in the opening week. Yesterday, John spoke with TinCaps catcher Adam Kerner who was signed as an undrafted free agent last June. He played his college ball at USD.
Keep an Eye on: Catcher/infielder Jonny Homza homered twice in the six-game series, seeing time behind the dish and at first and third base. Homza hasn’t played a lot of professional baseball since being drafted in 2017. He spent two years in the AZL, learning how to catch and played with the short-season Dust Devils in 2019. Homza hails from Alaska and played in tournaments in the continental US to pop up on the scouting circuit. In ten games Homza is hitting .188/.366/.469 – a slash-line that is actually 40% above league-average. … We mentioned Ethan Elliott last week and he topped his debut outing with two more great starts. The former tenth-round pick allowed just one hit in six innings, walking no one and striking out 13. Through three outings, Elliott is leading the High-A Central (I’ll never get used to this) League in strikeout rate (56%), K/9 (16.80), K/BB (9.33), WHIP (0.47) and ranks third with a 0.60 ERA. As we have mentioned, Elliott doesn’t possess big-time velocity but he has a very good changeup and a curveball.
Lake Elsinore Storm (Lost four of six to Inland Empire)
Top Prospects: The Storm had a pair of impressive rallies to win two games late, otherwise they were a play or two from being swept at home. … Outfielder Robert Hassell III had another productive series, going 6-for-28 with three doubles, six walks, and nine strikeouts. Hassell also had a dramatic, walk-off double that plated three runs. Through 12 games, Hassell is leading the Low-A West circuit with a 23.3% walk rate. Overall, the 19-year-old is hitting .283/.450/.565 through the season’s first two weeks. … Joshua Mears hit his first homer of the year Friday night, a laser that hit the scoreboard in left field. On Friday, Mears was hit by a pitch and left the game – the second time he’s left a game after being hit this season. Mears appeared as a pinch-runner in Sunday’s game so it doesn’t appear to be too serious. The 20-year-old has been as advertised – prodigious power that will come with strikeouts. Through two weeks, Mears has a K-rate north of 40% with a solid 11% walk rate. Mears’s overall line of .206/.386/.353 is actually 20% above league-average.
Keep an Eye on: RHP Dwayne Matos. Matos, 20, started Thursday night and pitched five perfect innings in a game the Storm went on to lose. Matos has not walked a batter through his first nine innings and has struck out six. He allowed some hard contact in his last start but none of it was in the air. While he’s been aided by a .083 BABIP, his ability to fill the zone should help him remain competitive, as walks are up significantly in minor league baseball this season. … Utility-man Jarryd Dale had an excellent series, going 5-for-12, with a triple, four runs, four RBI, and three walks. Dale has appeared at first base, third base, and the corner outfield spots. Dale, who hails from Australia, spent 2018 and 2019 in the AZL. In 10 games, Dale is hitting a very solid .280/.379/.400.